The air between the Romans and Greeks was still tense when Leo landed the Argo II, not that Jason was really surprised. They would've torn each other to shreds if it was for Piper's charmspeaking.
Campers were still being picked off the battlefield and carried to the infirmary, and the son of Jupiter couldn't help but notice that the Romans were missing quite a few demigods and legacies themselves. He swallowed and glanced back up at ship, silently willing everyone to hurry down because as much as Jason loved both camps, he and his girlfriend were not going to stand there alone while the other members of the seven and Nico hid on board.
The Doors had been successfully closed and with their resident son of Poseidon recovered, they made it back to Long Island in record time. Well, almost successfully.
Jason silently thought about his Greek counterpart. He wasn't dealing well with the loss to say the least. Actually, Percy hadn't been dealing well with anything. Not that the blond superman was really surprised. He didn't think Percy was weak by any means, in fact, he was certain he saw at a couple dozen monsters run when they saw the survivor of Tartarus, but the Roman needed his co-leader to focus.
Tartarus. Jason shuddered a bit then waved off Piper's concerned look. The former Roman praetor couldn't even begin to fathom the horrors that unfolded down there. The residents of the Argo II had woken up on more than one occasion to the demigod's screams. Some nights, Percy would wake up by himself, other nights he couldn't. And neither could any of his friends, to their dismay. On nights like those, they could do nothing but sit together in the meeting room and stare at each other through glazed eyes as the son of Poseidon thrashed and screamed in his sleep.
Although Jason couldn't read people as well as Piper or Annabeth could, he knew that Percy also felt guilty about a certain goddess. Everyone assured him that he couldn't have done anything to stop her. Literally. He and Annabeth could barely move and had collapsed into the rest of the Seven's outstretched arms as soon as they stepped out of Tartarus for the first time in what felt like years. Still, the oldest of the Seven blamed himself for his former...friend's sacrifice.
Honestly, no one - not even Nico, knew what sort of relationship he and the girl shared. He sure as Hades didn't know what to think when the pretty girl approached the ship and demanded that she help them save their lost friends. Strangely enough, they let her come. Maybe it was an act of desperation, or Hera was influencing them (most likely) but they told her to hop on board when she told them she wanted to repay her debt to Percy. He might've actually thought she was just a girl trying to help the son of Poseidon if she didn't subtly insist on staying in Annabeth's room.
Jason thought that maybe the mysterious girl had a crush on his friend. He'd grown accustomed to hearing Piper's siblings fawn over Percy's looks. But he suspected that the feelings of the new member of the quest went a bit deeper than just attraction.
His suspicions were confirmed when six demigods and the friendly stranger reached the wide open Doors of Death. During their last meeting, Jason suggested that they set a time limit for waiting for Percy and Annabeth to meet them at the Doors. The unofficial leader felt horrible for even saying it, but a time limit was needed. The others attending meeting begged to differ.
Jason raised his hands in an attempt to calm his friends. "I know, they're our friends. I hate this idea as much as all of you do, but we need to stop Camp Jupiter from destroying-"
"Hey," his girlfriend snapped. The son of Jupiter resigned himself to being stuck in the dog house for the remainder of their voyage. "Just because you Romans are all 'warlike' and 'more united' doesn't mean that Camp Half-Blood's not going to put up a fight."
The other demigods - including Hazel and Frank nodded in agreement and Jason briefly noted that she didn't even use her charmspeaking. "I didn't mean it like that," he backtracked. "I just meant that there is a war brewing. We need to stop that from-"
"Yes." That time it was Hazel who interrupted. "We need to stop it, and we need Percy and Annabeth to do that."
Her half-brother agreed with her. "The exchange was made so you and Percy could build trust between both the Greeks and the Romans. Jason, if you go out there, without Percy, it'll be a bloodbath."
Piper took the spotlight again. "Not to mention, those two were the leaders of Camp Half-Blood. If we land this ship, and they see that they're not there, they're going to suspect foul play. And, I'm sorry, Jason, but as much as they've accepted you, you're going to be on their kill list along with Hazel and Frank. And you guys are already on bad terms with the other Romans."
"Don't remind me," Frank muttered.
The former praetor sucked in a shaky breath, praying that all of Hades doesn't break loose. "How long do you suggest the time limit to be?"
It does. In a blink, Hazel and Frank were at Jason's throat. Nico was giving the Roman his famous death glare and the son of Hades' fingers were itching to draw his black sword. Piper and the girl were either ranting together or arguing in the corner. It could've been either; Piper resented letting her on board as soon she settled into Annabeth's cabin.
Everyone was surprised when Leo stepped onto the table and yelled, "Okay! We are all going to sit down and vote on a deadline for Percy and Annabeth, or so help me, I will turn this ship around!"
No one was sure whether to laugh or argue even more, but they all slowly made their way back to their seats. In the end, the demigods calculated that all the time they could give their friends to escape Tartarus was one hour, and even then, the only way they'd make it to camp on time was if Percy wasn't too banged up.
The tension while waiting for their hopefully not too injured friends was so thick not even Leo had anything to say. It was only after the first 20 minutes of waiting that Jason realized how short an hour could be. Between him, Nico, and Coach Hedge, they'd managed to make a shallow trench on the damp ground from all their pacing.
Frank, Hazel, and Leo all sat back to back, unblinking. Whatever was up with them on the journey to Rome had been taken care of. Thank gods because Jason couldn't deal with a Frank vs. Leo macho smack down and a cat fight between Piper and the mystery girl.
He wasn't completely sure why his girlfriend was so against the new girl. Yes, she took Annabeth's cabin, but Nico and Hedge had taken the only guest rooms that weren't being currently used at Leo's storage rooms. Where else was she going to stay? Percy's? The son of the sky god doubted that Annabeth wouldn't be even less pleased with that if she returned. When, Jason told himself. When not if.
He steeled himself and checked his watch again. Percy and Annabeth had 22 minutes left. The blond exhaled rigidly and ran a trembling hand through his hair. His time with the Greeks had made him soft, he realized. The Roman in him couldn't help but think that that was a bad thing.
Nico growled stabbed his sword into the ground. "He said, 'The other side, Nico! We'll see you there.'"
Jason didn't know what sort of terms the other sons of the Big Three were on, but Nico must've had some sort of hero-worship going on because he had honestly believed that the couple would already be waiting for them at the Doors. And from what he'd seen, the Italian was a pessimist and didn't trust easily.
Jason checked his watch. Down to 0 minutes. He closed his eyes. "Time to close the Doors." Jason hoped no one noticed the crack in his voice.
Hazel let out a choked sob and everyone else stared at their leader disbelievingly.
"No way that was an hour," Leo denied.
Jason couldn't meet his best friend's eyes. A year ago, he could've steeled himself and left without feeling too guilty. But now he had a hard time facing his friends' shocked and sad faces.
Thankfully, Hedge stepped up, his eyes a little blank. "You heard him, cupcakes." Everyone mutely watched the satyr clip-clop into the darkness and brace himself against a Door.
Jason saw the nameless girl jerk up in the corner of his eye. "They're almost here," she cried.
Six demigods and a satyr froze. The son of Jupiter's neck snapped back up to the Doors, but there was no one there. He shook his head at her. "I know you want to save Percy, but-"
"Jason, shut up," Piper said.
The poor demigod blinked and stared at her. "Pipes..."
"Look," the daughter of Aphrodite insisted.
He did, and slowly, out of the darkness came two struggling forms, one limping and the other clutching their stomach. The son of Jupiter saw a flash of yellow and green, and his heart swelled with hope and he - though he'll never admit it for fear Leo's teasing - teared up. Just a little.
Coach Hedge ran to their aid and to everyone's surprise, he slung Percy's arm over his shoulder rather than Annabeth's. The other half-bloods already had their arms out to embrace them. The satyr pulled the son of Poseidon out of Tartarus and gasps were heard when Percy coughed up blood.
Jason's eyes widened when he saw the diagonal gash across the teen's stomach and chest. He quickly helped the coach sit him up against a rock while the girls caught the daughter of Athena.
Percy coughed up more blood as Annabeth was set down beside him. The image of them torn, bruised, and broken was burned into Jason's mind. One of Annabeth's steely eyes was missing along with a chunk from her arm and side. Her ankle was covered by useless bubble wrap and cuts littered her body. Her boyfriend wasn't much better.
Jason could see broken bones threatening to break through the skin, and it took all his willpower not to join Frank and Piper in vomiting his breakfast. There were claw marks starting from his chin and overlapping the large rip across his torso all the way down to his navel. And Percy's face was bruised and swollen, and nearly unrecognizable.
Jason swallowed down bile and started barking orders to everyone to get the wounded demigods on board.
"Jason," Hazel said, eyes still red from crying and new tears forming in her golden eyes. "I...I'm no child of Apollo, but I don't think Percy's going to make it on board." A sharp cough and the gurgling of someone drowning on their own blood accentuated youngest of the Seven's words.
"He'll be fine," he told her, not believing his words for a second. "We can patch him up on the Argo, he'll be okay."
Percy snorted and suppressed a wince. "I beg to differ."
"Hey," the sixteen year-old snapped. "You'll make it. We'll get ambrosia and nectar."
Percy locked eyes with his cousin, and Jason started a little at their intensity. "Someone has to close the Doors."
It took a few second to process what he meant, and when they did, all the demigods argued with Percy as he gently brushed away his girlfriend's matted hair to kiss her forehead. Stormy grey eyes met sea green and whatever Annabeth was going to say died on her tongue. Jason panicked at that because if the daughter of Athena was giving up, then something was very bad.
Percy looked each of his friends in the eye and they all silenced. Annabeth closed her eyes rested her head in the crook of his neck. "Help me up."
No one moved a muscle.
"We can't leave the Doors open." He locked eyes with Jason again. "I'll close from the inside. You guys close them from out here."
Nico swallowed and blinked away tears. "Percy-"
"You know it has to be done, Nico. And you know it has to be me."
Hazel buried her face in her hands, and Piper sat down, leaning over in an attempt to hide her tears. The boys looked down at their friend, and Leo's the first to kneel next to Percy to (carefully) hug him. The girls, Frank, and even Nico, though he looked uncomfortable, join the group hug. Hedge hovered over the huddle with his bat slung over his shoulder, and Jason remained standing before the Hero of Olympus in a staring contest.
"I need to close the Doors," he told Jason again. The son of Jupiter's shoulders drooped and he gave Percy an almost imperceptible nod.
"Actually," said a new voice, and Jason jumped because he completely forgot all about the mystery girl. She spread her hands. "That's what I am here for, my brave one."
Sea colored eyes widened in recognition. "Calypso."
The demigods traded expressions. No way...
Calypso smiled for the first time, and as she slowly dropped to her knees before her hero, Percy's friends backed away from her. The beautiful girl ran her fingers through messy black waves as if it were a familiar gesture. And, as far Jason knew, it was. "I am here, Percy," she repeated.
She gently pressed her delicate hand to the Greek hero's forehead, and he winced. The daughter of Atlas rested her other one on Annabeth's, who gasped in pain. Frank and Jason stepped forward to stop her, but when they yanked her hands away, Percy's wounds were already closing, bones were straightening and mending, and Annabeth's eye was back in its socket. Within seconds, the heroes were completely healed. Calypso hurriedly whispered a spell and the two demigods who had been through hell slowly closed their eyes.
"What did you do to them?" Piper demanded, alarmed.
Calypso evenly met the daughter of Aphrodites' kaleidoscope eyes. "I have done nothing but heal them and put them to sleep. And now I will do even more."
Piper looked away guiltily, and Frank cleared his throat a little. "And what would that be?" the shape shifter said a little uncertainly.
"I am going to close the Doors of Death," she said calmly. Jason wondered if she had ever panicked in her immortal life.
"Calypso," Percy murmured, fighting to stay awake. "Don't..."
Calypso gave him a watery laugh and blinked away the tears in her eyes. "You freed me from my prison. This is the least I can do, my brave one. Sleep. You are safe."
The leader of Camp Half-Blood does. Jason, Piper, Frank, Hazel, and Leo didn't know what to think when the goddess pressed her lips to Percy's.
"Come," she said, leading the way to the Doors. Calypso braces herself against one Door, and the demigods and Hedge pile up against the other. "I am ready."
Piper managed to say regretful "Sorry" before the Doors shut. Eight half-bloods and one satyr on one side, a goddess on the other. Jason knew he should feel thankful that he didn't have to sacrifice the son of the sea god, but he couldn't help but feel guilty. The son of Jupiter recalled the story of his friend giving up godhood for the minor gods' cabins and freeing Calypso from Ogygia (and according to the Aphrodite cabin, Annabeth, which he doesn't doubt), and he felt horrible for letting Percy's wish unravel.
Nevertheless, he and his Wise Girl were placed safely in Percy's room aboard the ship. The next day, Jason almost didn't have the courage to inform the son of Poseidon of his...friend's fate.
"Jason?" Leo said, snapping his fingers in front of his friend's face. "You in there?"
The blond blinked and shook his head. "Yeah, fine."
The fire user raised an eyebrow at that. "You su-"
Leo put his hands up in a peace gesture. "Okay, I surrender. You just seemed really spaced out."
Jason pinched the bridge of his nose. "Uh...yeah, not enough sleep last night." It wasn't a lie, Annabeth had a little breakdown last night and it had taken a while for Percy to wake up from his own nightmare to comfort her.
"Oh my gods," breathed one of the campers - of Jupiter or Half-Blood, the slayer of Krios couldn't tell.
Jason looked up to see the two leaders of the Greek demigods step down the gangplank. He admitted that they did look pretty horrible. While they weren't wounded (well, Percy got a pretty good shiner from his girlfriend when she was freaking out), they were still a little malnourished, and they looked like they hadn't slept in months. Their skin was constantly clammy now, and they had dark circles big enough and dark enough to rival Nico's.
Glancing back to Half-Blood Hill, Jason saw that all of the demigods present looked horrified. Reyna looked at him in surprise and mouthed "What, in Pluto's name, happened?"
Jason could only shake his head a little helplessly because he didn't even know where to begin.
Percy Jackson silently stood in the clearing with Annabeth, Hazel, and Frank to his left and Jason, Piper, and Leo at his right. The son of Poseidon looked at his fellow praetor. "How many casualties?" he asked clearly.
Jason looked at him without turning. Percy's voice was much stronger and more confident than it had been on the flight home. He wondered if it was a front, or if the demigod was finally recovering mentally and emotionally from his ordeal. Jason was leaning more towards the former.
Reyna's face was unreadable. "Forty-eight on our side."
"Eleven from ours," Clarisse clarified gruffly after a beat of silence.
Grumbles and hushed arguments broke out across the post battlefield. The Roman hero's stomach clenched. Fifty-nine half-bloods dead... How many had been his friends?
"And how many injured?" Percy's voice cut clearly across the ruckus and complete silence ensues. Jason wondered if this is the natural leader part of Percy that everyone at Camp Half-Blood used to talk about over the campfires.
Reyna hesitates. "Six maimed and forty-four with major injuries."
Clarisse grits her teeth. "Fifty-nine with major injuries. One maim. And she was ten."
Fights broke out almost as soon as the daughter of Ares finished speaking. Greeks drew their weapons again and the Hecate cabin was already yelling out spells. Romans were ganging up on their more laid back counterparts three to one, beating them senseless with their fists, elbows, knees and whatever blunt weapon they could get their hands on.
"No!" Jason yelled when he saw a son of Mars looming over a little boy from the Morpheus cabin. "Stop!"
It was a little sad that the son of the sky god could recognize Camp Half-Blood's infirmary so quickly. Same bed sheets, same pale blue walls, same low ceiling. The only difference was, rather than Piper standing over him, it was Leo.
When the son of Hephaestus noticed his friend was awake, he grinned. "Hey, Sunshine."
Jason groaned. "What happened?"
Leo pulled out a mess of gears and wires and a bunch of metal junk the blond couldn't name and started fiddling with it. "We-e-ell," the builder of the Argo II began, dragging out the e. "For starters you got hit in the head for, like, I don't know, the sixth time this month? You've been out for a couple days."
"Concussions come with the job," he replied, sitting up a little. Will Solace handed him a glass of nectar which Jason took gratefully. "What happened afterwards?"
The boy's arched eyebrows furrowed and he breathed roughly out his mouth. The injured demigod smiled at the way Leo resembled a blowfish while he floundered for words. "Percy went all...ka-pow."
Jason's pretty sure his eyebrow shoot up all the way to his hairline. "He did what now?"
The fire user looked up from his rapidly moving fingers to peer into his best friend's eyes briefly. "He drew Riptide and stabbed the ground."
Leo snorted at the blond's clueless look. "Dude, the earth started shaking. People were falling and the ground was opening." He shook his head.
"At first we thought it was an attack from Gaea, but then Percy summoned a hurricane around himself to look down at all of us. It was crazy, I - for a second, I thought I was looking at his dad." The mechanic nodded in agreement with himself. "We were all on our knees on the ground, trying not to fall, and Percy was right smack in the middle of it all, looming over us. The sky darkened and everyone was forced to huddle together when he opened the ground around us. Romans were on their knees pleading for mercy, and Greeks were looking both horrified and proud."
Despite the knot in his gut, Jason whistled. "That sounded almost poetic."
He tried to keep his worry in check. "What did he do afterwards?"
The counselor of the Hephaestus cabin wrinkled his forehead. "Well, the august guy wasn't really clear on that, but he said Percy started threatening the Romans."
"What?" Jason asked in disbelief.
Leo smiled sheepishly. "I don't really know what Perce said for sure. Hit my head, but the scarecrow kid said that's what happened."
Despite his confusion at who Leo was referring to, the son of Jupiter smirked and rolled his eyes. "Hypocrite."
"You're acting like a girl."
"Shut up, Leo." Jason handed the now empty glass of nectar to his best friend, swung his legs over the bed, and walked to the back of the infirmary. He was surprised to see Will working with Pam, the best healer at Camp Jupiter, on Dakota's chest wound. "You guys got any idea where Percy is?"
The medics traded glances and shrugged. "Sorry," Will said, "he didn't show up for breakfast...well, not that we did either."
Pam looked up from her stitching. "Someone saw the blonde-"
"Annabeth," offered Will.
Pam glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. "Yeah, uh, her sneak into his cabin."
Jason mumbled his thanks and strolled out of the outside. Percy and Annabeth breaking camp rules and hanging out after curfew? Yeah, fairly normal. But Percy threatening the camps? No. That wasn't like Percy at all. With a chill, Jason was suddenly very weary of his friend.
"Hey, you're up."
The son of Jupiter turned around and almost had a heart attack. Piper and Reyna. Sitting together and drinking coffee. Jason wondered if it'd be too obvious if he ran away.
The daughter of Bellona raised an eyebrow slightly. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, great," he lied. "Uh, you?"
She traded a furtive look with Piper. "...Well enough."
Reyna and Jason looked at each other, each not really knowing what to say. Not sure if they should say anything.
"Jason, are you sure you're ok?" Piper asked worriedly to break the silence.
"Yeah, just looking for Percy." Jason coughed uncomfortably. "Do you - both, er, either of you know where he is?"
The corners of Reyna's eyes crinkled with mirth, and Piper bit her lip to keep from smiling. They gave each other an amused look. "Haven't seen him since yesterday," the charmspeaker declared.
"Perhaps he's on the beach," Reyna suggested. She and Piper returned to their conversation like their mutual object of attraction wasn't even there. Something about knife maneuvers.
Jason walked away feeling very confused. What in Hades happened yesterday? He stumbled toward the beach and wondered if he hit his head harder than he thought. He was about to turn around and make his way back to the infirmary when he saw the son of Poseidon standing on the surf.
Jason held his hand to the back of his head and made as much noise as possible. After Leo's attempted prank on a sleeping Percy and Annabeth almost ended with them down one son of Hephaestus, the rest of the crew new not to startle them. Especially now.
Jason stopped a few paces behind Percy. He knew that Poseidon was more welcoming than any of the other Big Three. In fact, Nico and Thalia hung out in Cabin 3 more than their own cabins, but Jason was still cautious of the Zeus-Poseidon and Roman-Greek rivalries. "Hey," he said.
The older demigod turned and smiled. "Hey, how's your head?"
"S'okay. Feels like Frank sat on me in elephant form, but I think it'll be fine." Jason studied at his friend. He looked better. Percy's skin wasn't so pale and he was starting to fill out his clothes again, but his eyes were still glazed over like he wasn't completely there.
"I bet," Percy murmured, eyes roaming over the waves.
The heroes of Olympus stood in silence, watching the sea and enjoying the wind on their faces. Jason cleared his throat. "I heard about what you did. By the way."
"Yeah, I think it worked out pretty well. Grover's going to kill me ruining the land and trees but still..."
Jason stared at Percy. How could he be so casual about what he did? He could've destroyed Long Island, could've destroyed them all. And he was worrying about satyrs and trees? He shook his head in disbelief. "Percy how could you say that? What if someone got hurt?"
Percy blinked. "I was careful. Yeah, they stumbled a little but-"
"A little?" Jason said incredulously. "You caused an earthquake. People - my people were on their knees begging for you to stop. Someone could've gotten killed."
"Was careful," the younger demigod snapped. "What's been up with you lately? In fact, you Annabeth, even Nico, have been just so...off. Piper, Leo, Hazel, Frank, me - we've tried to help you three, but you keep pushing us away, saying that you're fine. Everyone knows that's a lie. I get that Tartarus is bad but you guys act like you don't even feel anything anymore. You didn't care when Calypso saved you-"
Percy's jaw tensed. "That's not true."
"You didn't care when she sacrificed herself for you. You didn't care that she loved you."
The waves started crashing against each other a little roughly. And the son of Poseidon glared at his replacement but his eyes were sad. "Jason, stop."
The next words come out before he can stop himself. "Would you even care if Annabeth, Nico, or anyone from the camps died too because of what you pulled?"
Percy's eyes darkened and Jason could see more storms brewing in them. The older boy stalked towards Jason. "You have no idea how I feel," he hissed between clenched teeth. "I cared about Calypso, she saved my life, and I freed her from paradise only to trap her in hell. Not a second goes by that I don't regret letting her go. So don't you dare tell me that I don't care.
"And don't you dare judge Annabeth and me. Time in Tartarus? It moves differently. One week in there might as well be a year. Reaching the Doors felt like it took two lifetimes. You have no idea what Annabeth and I saw down there, what we had to do to survive.
"Kronos and the other titans were down there, too, you know. And long story short, they got their revenge." Jason flinched at that. "They would rip us to shreds only to put us back together and repeat the torture over and over and over again. We barely escaped.
"We don't accept your help because you wouldn't understand, and we didn't want you to worry about us. You guys had enough on your plate with the Roman camp attacking the Greeks, you didn't need to add two mental friends to the list.
"I united the camps, Grace, so do me a favor and leave before I do something that'll compromise that." The son of Poseidon glared at the son of Jupiter, and the stunned blond stumbled back into a run. By the time he looked back, Percy was nowhere in sight.
"You shouldn't have said that."
"I think he already knows that, Reyna. What I want to know is why he said it."
"Yes," said another voice, he could already feel the magic in that one word. "Why, Jason?"
Jason closed his eyes. Oh, he so did not need to deal with this right now. He faced Reyna, the Oracle, and Piper. "I know. It was bad. I was just so upset with him because he seemed so...indifferent to the danger he put all of you in. I just...it just came out."
Reyna gave him a guarded look that he was, unfortunately, used to. "I see."
The boy sighed. "What do you want from me?"
The redhead played with a rip in her jeans. "Last time I checked, you've been in the infirmary for a couple days. Whoever told you what happened did a lousy job."
"I got the basics," Jason defended. "I got that Percy pretty much used his freaky Poseidon powers to scare the demigods into submission, and he so far as to threaten the Romans."
The girls frowned at each other. "Percy didn't threaten anyone," Rachel said slowly. "Scare them out of their pants, yes, but he didn't say he'd hurt anyone."
The demigods didn't care if they were just trying to kill each other ten minutes ago, Greeks and Romans were clutching each other, screaming, and trying not to get too hurt.
Piper shrieked as the slippery ground ripped open beneath her, she closed her eyes and braced herself for the fall, and gasped in surprise when something snagged onto the back of her shirt. The charmspeaker glanced back. Reyna.
The praetor grunted. "Give me your hand unless you want to fall, daughter of Aphrodite."
Piper held up her hand, and the dark haired girl pulled her up as a burst of water shot up beneath the younger girl to aid Reyna. The two girls gasped for breath and stared at the son of Poseidon.
"I don't know what's gotten into him," Piper panted, water dripping from her hair. "Is he freaking trying to kill us?"
The daughter of Bellona analyzed the scene before her. Percy was isolating them, keeping them from escaping, but he wasn't letting anyone fall to their deaths either. Geysers shot up to catch the demigods just before they hit the ground, but they were always deposited back onto the son of Poseidon's impromptu island. "He's trying to keep us from leaving," she declared.
Piper gave the Roman a strange look. "Then why the storm and earthquakes? Couldn't he just - aren't they a little unnecessary?"
Reyna admitted that Jason's girlfriend (thinking it still felt like a slap) had a fair point. Percy didn't need all the overkill, the display of his power. Both camps knew what he was capable of and neither needed any reminding. So what was he up to?
A flash of blonde caught the praetor's eye and she saw Annabeth standing upright on still ground across the gap. The daughter of Athena was scrutinizing her boyfriend's handiwork with sharp eyes. Stormy grey met obsidian and Annabeth smiled at her and gave Reyna a reassuring nod.
Reyna's eyebrows raised, and she couldn't help but be impressed by the way the children of Poseidon and Athena worked together. "Oh, those little conniving Graeci." But for once the daughter of Bellona didn't mean the word as an insult. In fact, she'd willingly admit that there was a hint of admiration in her voice.
Piper, however, didn't catch it. "Excuse me?" she said, clearly affronted.
Reyna smiled wryly at the brunette. "Just watch the show," she told her.
Slowly, the sky cleared and the earth stopped trembling. The only evidence of anything amiss were the crushed trees and the hundreds of dripping wet demigods in full battle armor standing on a circle of land shaped out by deep cracks in the earth. Even the blood from the battle was washed away.
Annabeth had somehow joined Percy in his hurricane, but even that was much tamer than it had been. Now it was just a shadow of its former strength.
"Look around," Annabeth ordered, her icy voice ringing above all of them. The other demigods were quick to obey her, but Reyna kept her eyes on the retriever of the Athena Parthenos. The Athena Parthenos.
Reyna's lips pursed. The gods might have stopped getting headaches, but it didn't alter much for their children. When Jason "Iris-messaged" her that the status had been saved, she had hoped that it would help settle the camps' differences. Apparently, it was meant to serve a different purpose.
Annabeth's voice snapped her back into reality. "Do you see the destruction? Did you feel terror as the earth shook? That is what Gaea will do to each of you - Greek or Roman, if we don't fight this war together."
Naturally, Octavian took this as the right time to speak up. "Do you see? They're threatening us! They're prophesying our doom, as soon as we befriend these-these barbarians they'll put us in chains and offer us as sacrifices to the gi-"
"Shut up, Octavian," a boy from the Third Cohort snapped.
"That's a load of dung, and you know it!" yelled another Roman. Shouts broke out again but, thankfully, this time they were all as one against Octavian.
"Octavian, augur and legacy of Apollo," Reyna said coolly, "still your tongue before I cut it out."
The scrawny blond wisely kept his mouth shut.
"We've worked together before," Percy started, and every legacy and half-blood knew that he was referring to the second Titan War. "And we can again. While Camp Jupiter charged Mount Othrys and toppled Kronos' throne, Camp Half-Blood defended Olympus and fought Kronos' army. Why should this war be any different?
"The queen of the gods exchanged Jason and me for a reason, and that was to bring the Romans and the Greeks together. Call it fate or a meddling goddess, but either way, both camps were destined to meet and destined to stop Gaea from rising. Either we set aside our differences and work together or" - the ground jerked downwards and the startled demigods fell once again - "we fall together."
No one, not even Octavian or any of his devout followers, had any argument to make. Quiet murmurs rumbled across the crowd and Reyna took this as her cue. The praetor straightened her cape and stood tall above the mass. "On behalf of the Romans of Camp Jupiter, I offer-"
Clarisse got up from the ground and made a show off dropping her spear. The bigger girl extended her hand. "Let's skip the formalities."
The corner of Reyna's mouth tweaked up because she could practically hear the word "princess" dying at the end of the sentence. She wasn't offended. The temporary leader of Camp Half-Blood had refrained from embarrassing the praetor in front of her people, and Reyna knew for a fact that restraint wasn't an easy feat for any child of Ares. If Clarisse was willing to extend a friendly hand, then so was Reyna. The two daughters of war gods shook hands and a silent pact was made between the Greeks and Romans.
There weren't any magical lights or blasts of energy rolling out from where the girls stood, but the tension in the air slowly faded as, one by one, Greeks and Romans helped each other up and stood side by side. They weren't perfectly united by any means, but they weren't killing each other. And Reyna decided that that was a good start.
Jason sat back and rubbed his face. "The august guy! Leo meant augur," he sighed. "It was Octavian. That little weasel. Once I get my hands on him, he'll know what his teddy bears feel li-"
Reyna stared. "Jason, did you listen to anything I just said?"
"No." He recoiled at the glare she was giving him. It didn't matter that he'd been on the receiving end of that look more times than he could count, Reyna still managed to terrify him when she wanted to. "I mean, sure. Yes-whatever the correct answer is."
"That wasn't it, "Rachel said amusedly. The Oracle had drawn a picture of Percy in demonstrating his power into the dirt, and if it was accurate, he must've looked like a god at the time.
"Gee, thanks," he said, a little distracted by Rachel's artwork.
She grinned and he wondered if he had seen that smile anywhere else. Maybe a billboard... "Anytime, Supes."
"Mmm...nothing," she said nonchalantly. She hesitated mid-stroke of her sketch. "And Jason? What you said about Calypso, well, Percy never meant... He doesn't even know but he has a tendency to..." She blushed, and the demigods stared at her.
Calypso and Percy. Rachel and Percy...after seeing him with Annabeth, the idea of him liking other girls was too strange, but it made sense. A mortal would have to have more than just curiosity and clear sight to be able to embrace the world behind the Mist. And a goddess would need more than good morals to repay a debt by trapping herself in Tartarus.
Piper broke the awkward silence by laying a small hand on her boyfriend's shoulder. "Jason, I-Hey, where're you going?"
Jason didn't really know what he was doing or what he was going to say, but Percy had always rushed into things without a plan so the son of Jupiter figured he'd be fine too. Well, not that Percy was exactly fine right now.
The blond still couldn't believe what the son of Poseidon and Annabeth went through in Tartarus. The titans and all those monsters the couple had killed...there must've been hundreds of malevolent creatures after them, each wanting a piece of the demigods. Jason shuddered then jumped when the door opened.
"Jason," Percy said flatly.
The hero of New Rome overcame the urge to say "Oh, wrong cabin, good night" and sighed. "Look, man, I'm sorry about what I said to you earlier. It was a mistake, Octavian-"
Percy gave him a look. "You've been listening to Octavian?"
Jason quickly shook his head and recounted what had happened since he woke up that day. He was a little exasperated with Leo for listening to Octavian without realizing he was listening to a snake, but at the same time, the son of Jupiter couldn't blame him. When the fire user first met the augur, he was being possessed by eidolons so he didn't know that the legacy was bad news. Still it would've spared Jason from feeling like a complete and utter jerk.
"So yeah. Octavian," he finished, still unsure of Percy's thoughts.
Jason never had an easy time guessing what the son of the sea god was thinking. He changed too rapidly, one minute he could be angry and then completely calm. Needless to say, it drove Jason crazy.
"Look," he said, staring at his shoes, "I get it if you're still angry with me, but we need to at least try work together for the Greeks and Romans; like Clarisse and Reyna did. Pact or not, there are going to be issues if they see us angry with each other. And-and I'm sorry. I shouldn't have judged you and Annabeth. That was way out of line and-"
Percy managed a faint smile. "Apology accepted. Let's not make this any more of a chick-flick moment than it already is. Want to grab a cheeseburger? I'm starving."
Jason blinked up at him. He was sure that Percy would still be angry with him. The son of Jupiter shook his head. When it came to Percy, no one could really be sure. "Yeah, why not?"
Jason still knew he wasn't completely off the hook. While Percy was quick to forgive him (which still sent his head spinning), he knew couldn't expect the same from Annabeth, Frank, Hazel, and Nico. There was still a war brewing that would make the Titan war look like child's play and Jason knew he'd have to face his angry friends sooner or later, but for now, he'd settle with eating cheeseburgers with his older cousin and watch as lines of trust were made between the Greeks and Romans. If a son of Jupiter and a son of Poseidon could sit side by side like old friends, then maybe there was hope for the gods and their descendants after all.
"Hey, Jason, look. It's Octavian."
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